Coach Vernon expects Diamonds to grow into the season after opening-day loss

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Matt Vernon believes the AFC Rushden & Diamonds players will grow into the season after suffering an early setback at Hayden Road.

Diamonds kicked off life in the Northern Premier League Midlands with a 1-0 defeat to Sporting Khalsa in front of over 500 fans at Hayden Road.

Curvin Sanderson-Ellis’ penalty three minutes before half-time proved decisive but Diamonds gave it a go in the second half, particularly after goalkeeper George Rose had saved a second spot-kick from the Khalsa forward.

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Mitchell White and Ethan Johnston both went close to grabbing a share of the points.

AFC Rushden & Diamonds coach Matt Vernon. Picture by Shaun FrankhamAFC Rushden & Diamonds coach Matt Vernon. Picture by Shaun Frankham
AFC Rushden & Diamonds coach Matt Vernon. Picture by Shaun Frankham

And, despite the defeat, coach Vernon could see reasons for his team to feel positive.

“We started really well and almost scored in the first three or four minutes,” Vernon said.

“Being a young team, that would have stood us in good stead.

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“But Khalsa grew into the game and, to be fair, we were hanging on a bit.

“We gave the penalty away but we were still going in not too worried at half-time.

“We pushed another player further forward in the second half and imposing ourselves on teams is something we have spoken about.

“George’s penalty save gave us a bit of a kick up the backside and we got higher up the pitch and we created a couple of little chances.

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“The fine margins didn’t quite go for us, especially when we have had one chance blocked by one of our own players who made a good attacking run.

“It’s a long, long season and I said to the boys at the end that a lot of them came in and experienced Step 3 football last year and by the time we’d played teams the second time round, we had learned what the league was all about.

“I think that will happen again. It’s horrible to lose the first game at home but I think that, by the time we come round to play Sporting Khalsa again, we will be more rounded at this level.”

Diamonds face a tough test in their first away game of the season on Tuesday night when they head to Spalding United, who are fancied by many to be challenging for the title.

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